Dr Yusuf Merchant, DAIRRC, Mumbai
Dr. Yusuf Adam Merchant, was born in 1956, in a reputed business family. From childhood he displayed a tendency for healing and soothing. In school and college, he would always be the child, that his peers would search for, in times of trouble. Needless to add, he solved their problems, and they remained his friends for life.
He continued this tendency to help others, even in his times of stress; viz the period, in his life, when he left the comforts of home, to prove a point, and lived on the streets of Mumbai, without a sou in his pocket, or a soul to help him.
It was during this period, when left to his own devices, that he saw the darker side of humanity, was pitted against life with all its brutality, was forced to look inside himself, and that was when he discovered the source of his existence; the meaning of his life.
He completed his medical degree, and began his internship at the JJ Group of hospitals, in the Department of Psychiatry. During this stint he was drawn to the treatment of drug addicts, who were at that time treated as criminals, as animals, as anything but the sensitive people that they really were.
He quit his job at the hospital, and began treating a small group of drug addicts at his own home. He lived with them, he went through their withdrawals, he shared their fears, their thoughts and feelings, he used his knowledge of medicine to come up with the best combination of drugs to alleviate even the most terrible mainlining heroin withdrawal.
From the initial treatment of a few addicts, his activities kept increasing till it spanned across international borders to bring hope and success, in the lives of thousands of recovering addicts. His empathetic approach to the understanding of drug addicts and alcoholics, led him to design the most effective rehabilitation programme, which over the years has achieved a success ratio of 85%.
His NGO, named DAIRRC, serves as a highly specialised adviser to the United Nation's Economic and Social Council for discussion of the issues of Substance Abuse and HIV/AIDS Prevention, treatment and research from a global and inter-disciplinary angle and contributes its expertise towards the formulation of policy recommendations to Member States and to the United Nations system.
Dr. Yusuf Merchant, is a human dynamo, who has singlehandedly revolutionised the approach to Substance Abuse treatment. The underlying factor of his success is his need to alleviate the suffering of people in distress. A common refrain amongst the thousands of addicts and alcoholics who have been successfully rehabilitated by him is, ‘this is a man who I identify with, who understood me, who I know will not hurt me, who I know will not betray me.’
He is the person to whom countless drug and alcohol addicts, and their families, look upto with the greatest of reverence and fervently seek in times of despair. If there is a Messiah for drug addicts it is this Doc, or Bhai, as he is affectionately referred to.
There are very few people in the field of Substance abuse rehabilitation, who can lay claim to this sort of adulation.
In the late nineties he established a rehab centre at the foothills of the Haji Malang mountain. This has gradually become a paradise, a haven, for nurturing the recovery of disturbed souls. Almost every person who has had the privilege of spending even a few hours at this haven of peace and tranquility, has come out refreshed and rejuvenated. The only words on their lips are ‘there is so much love in this place!’. It is this love that is the chief ingredient in Dr. Merchant’s recipe for Substance Abuse Rehabilitation.
He has discarded all traditional and half baked theories and practices of addiction treatment, and used his instinct, his sensitivity and inborn understanding of another human’s pain to provide an all encompassing aura of fortitude, of healing, of nurturing and compassion, which allows an addict to seek refuge in, and become brave enough to shrug off the artificial insulation of chemicals, and gain the confidence to face the reality of life.
85% of the tortured souls who have been through Doc’s rehab program, have managed to resurrect their lives, and excluded the need for drugs and alcohol totally. Whenever they feel weak or lost, they just need a few minutes with Doc, one of his hugs, or even a phone call, overflowing with the warmth of his voice, to get charged once again.